Monday, January 29, 2018

A Republic of Purses: The Limits of Egalitarian Liberalism





I've been wondering whether Jean-Jacques Rousseau might have a solution to one of the contemporary problems of Trumpism, in particular the conflicts Trump has exaccerbated among "the people." However, while Rousseau looked to our common holidays as a fertile ground for civic virtue, we no longer seem to have so many commonly affirmed celebrations today.
A Republic of Purses: The Limits of Egalitarian Liberalism
      There is a contemporary school of thought whose adherents, having assumed a vantage point alongside the impartial spectator described in Adam Smith’s other great book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, criticize the inequalities of income generated by competitive markets as unfair, unjust, or simply non-welfare maximizing.[i]  One prominent strain of liberal thinking, impressed by the freedom of choice and economic efficiency claimed for competitive markets, favors an institutional arrangement in which resource allocation is left mainly to markets, while the state assumes the responsibility of achieving a more equitable distribution of income.[ii]  In this conception, government raises the living standards of the poor by taxing high-income households and making transfer payments to low-income households.  Individuals remain free to choose their occupation, level of effort, rate of saving, and the like, while regulated markets continue to do the work of coordinating these choices in a more or less coherent fashion.
            This is not the institutional arrangement favored by Rousseau, who was interested in a virtuous state rather than a welfare state; a state where “public affairs encroach on private in the minds of citizens”; a state where the legislator's task is to see to it that the fatherland is constantly before the eyes of its citizens, “in their laws, in their games, in their homes, in their mating, in their feasts”; a state where citizens do not have “an instant of free time that they could call their own.”[iii]  Does the republic envisioned by Rousseau demand too much of its citizens?  No doubt, but let us consider a question that is less frequently asked.  Can the objectives of egalitarian liberalism be achieved in states where citizens are primarily, if not exclusively, concerned with “private business”?
            From the Rousseauean perspective we have been developing, there are ample reasons for skepticism.  Most importantly, the institutional design of the egalitarian-liberal state is not “incentive compatible,” to borrow an awkward term from information economics.  It requires considerable optimism to suppose that citizens who devote all of their time and energy to private interests and pursuits will readily set these preoccupations aside on those occasions when they are called upon to make sacrifices for the common good.[iv]  The danger is that the wealthy will resist “confiscatory taxes,” and the poor, if offered subsidies, may resist gainful employment.[v]  As a consequence, progressive tax policies are apt to be under constant pressure from the privileged, while generous welfare benefits can erode the level of effort put forth by those who are eligible for public subsidies.
            Some of the problematic aspects of the welfare state originate in the same circumstances that hamper the functioning of markets, in particular, the troublesome combination of self-interested motives and opaque conditions, which allow self-regarding agents to advance their private interests without worrying about how their decisions affect others.  To appreciate these difficulties from our vantage point, it is useful to regard the welfare state as an extensive scheme of social insurance that pays benefits to citizens in adverse circumstances, for example, when a citizen becomes ill, is injured, loses a job, or cannot earn a living wage even if employed.[vi]  This arrangement, like private insurance, is subject to the problems of moral hazard and adverse selection.  Thus, the more expansive the insurance coverage offered by the state, the weaker is the citizen’s incentive to refrain from actions that reduce the likelihood of ill-health, injury, joblessness, and poverty (the problem of moral hazard).  And whenever tax rates are increased to fund additional benefits, after-tax incomes will fall, further tipping the balance of advantages against productive endeavor (the problem of adverse selection).  If citizens choose to reduce their work effort, saving, or investment, the tax base will shrink, and tax rates will have to be raised in order to collect the same amount of revenue.  These problems are compounded by “globalization” because, in a worldwide network of markets, firms and investors can more easily transfer their resources to states with lower tax rates and less extensive welfare benefits.[vii]
            Let me reiterate my theoretical point, which is that the combination of 1) citizens who make choices without regard to the wider consequences of their decisions, and 2) opaque circumstances, are necessary conditions for the presence of both moral hazard and adverse selection.  The egalitarian liberal is not well-equipped to deal with these problems, which must be addressed either by transforming self-regarding individuals into community-regarding citizens, or by an intrusive discipline of surveillance, or by some combination of the two.  Although it is easy to appreciate the liberal’s desire to sidestep Rousseau’s demand that citizens not have “an instant of free time that they could call their own,” and substitute in its place a “moral division of labor” that allows “everyone to be publicly egalitarian and privately partial,” to borrow Thomas Nagel’s felicitous phrase, the issue is whether the egalitarian liberal can have her cake and eat it too, maintaining an egalitarian distribution of income in a state that leaves citizens free to pursue their own interests.[viii]
                X.  The Transparent Economy of Rousseau’s Model Republic
            I have argued that many of the shortcomings of real-world markets, as well as some of the problems that beset states which transfer income from the advantaged to the less advantaged, arise when self-regarding agents within stratified societies can pursue their interests behind a cloak of anonymity.  In the model republic envisioned by Rousseau, the circumstances and motives of action are different, and so, consequently, are the outcomes.
            Rousseau begins the Social Contract by promising to “take men as they are” and “to unite what right sanctions with what is prescribed by interest.”[ix]  Measured against this criterion, the programmatic centerpiece of egalitarian liberalism – the continuous transfer of income from the advantaged to the less advantaged – seems unstable if not utopian.  Instead of calling upon the wealthy to sacrifice on behalf of the poor, Rousseau stresses the importance of foreclosing the division of society into classes by maintaining a rough equality of property holdings and preventing an “extreme inequality of fortunes.”[x]  Rousseau’s maxim is that “everyone should make a living, and no one should grow rich.”[xi]  In a property-owning republic, the conflict of interest between the “haves” and “have nots” gives way to a commonality of circumstances among citizens who have “the same tastes and interests” and therefore find it “easy to unite in pursuit of the same objects.”[xii]  These common circumstances reduce the gap between the individual's particular will and the general will, so that, in deciding which policies will advance the common good, each citizen can make a good start by asking which policies would advance her own interests.  This is not to say that there would be no conflicts among citizens with equal property holdings, but rather that, beneath such conflicts, there would be a broad overlapping of interests, which, we may reasonably suppose, would alleviate, though not eliminate, the problem of “incentive compatibility,” since the laws would advance the interests shared in common by citizens whose circumstances were similar if not uniform.[xiii]
            In drawing attention to Rousseau's aim of bringing the particular will and the general will into closer alignment by “homogenizing” the interests of citizens, I do not mean to claim that a general will could be achieved without considerable self-restraint, if not self-denial.  Quite the contrary, there are countless occasions when what is best for everyone conflicts with what is best for me.  Yet Rousseau does not expect the general will to emerge ex nihilo (in the manner of Kant's categorical imperative); it is both disciplined by, and expressed within, the demanding public life of the citizen.  On the one hand, this public life is intended to foster solidarity so that citizens “might at length come to identify themselves in some degree with this greater whole.”[xiv]  On the other hand, the public life envisioned by Rousseau incorporates a scheme of mutual surveillance that circumscribes the scope of anonymity and therewith the citizen’s ability to advance narrower objectives at the expense of the republic.  Thus, the design of Rousseau’s republican state aims to strengthen the citizen’s commitment to the common good by creating common interests and a shared identity, while at the same time making sure that neither vice nor virtue can “escape the notice and judgment of the public.”
            Although Rousseau’s aims in designing a model republic were, for the most part, non-economic, his proposed scheme of institutional arrangements has several promising economic implications.  To begin with, communities without sharp inequalities of wealth and income can probably sustain higher levels of trust than societies which are divided into classes with conflicting interests.[xv]  And trust, in turn, creates opportunities to cooperate for mutual advantage that are not available to conflict-ridden societies in which mutual confidence is a scarce commodity, and business must be conducted through contracts rather than through less formal agreements.  Moreover, on those occasions when citizens must resort to contracts, their agreements will be easier to negotiate and simpler to write because their base of common understanding will be broader than that found in more stratified societies, and because compliance with contractual obligations is more easily verified when so much of life is conducted in public.[xvi]
            Recall that the combination of opacity, or private information, and self-interest creates economic relations in which self-regarding choices generate adverse externalities: slacking workers drag down average productivity and the wages that are based upon it; irresponsible behavior drives up the cost of health insurance, whether it is provided privately or publicly; imprudent risk-taking, which leads to loan defaults, can also result in tighter credit constraints, and so forth.  The institutions of Rousseau’s republican state, by reinforcing loyalty and solidarity at the expense of narrow self-interest, and by arranging society so that citizens can keep tabs on one another, provide the groundwork for a more transparent and more altruistic economy, which is less exposed to these unwanted externalities.  Citizens who monitor each other’s conduct and are moved by common interests and objectives can take advantage of cooperative opportunities that would otherwise be unattractive or infeasible because of moral hazard, adverse selection, credit rationing, and many other unfortunate side effects of self-seeking behavior under opaque conditions.[xvii]
            The next point I wish to make is that opaque conditions, which, to some extent, are part of the human condition, cause more problems in societies where the distribution of wealth is very unequal than in societies where property ownership is less concentrated.  Let me begin by taking note of the fact that a great deal of the economic behavior that is crucial to productivity is either impossible, or too costly, to monitor and therefore cannot be fully specified in an enforceable contract.  Consequently, workers, managers, and entrepreneurs cannot capture all of the productivity gains that would be available to them under conditions of complete transparency, an ideal that, admittedly, lies beyond even Rousseau’s model republic.  Of course, owners can devote additional resources to monitoring, or reorganize production activities so that employees can be more easily observed, when it is profitable to do so.  Nevertheless, overall productivity could be enhanced if resources could be shifted from monitoring to more fruitful activities.
            We have already explained how an increase in transparency can expand the range of mutually advantageous exchange.[xviii]  Let us now add the proposition that a more equal distribution of wealth would also alleviate some of the principle-agent problems that plague opaque economies.  Consider the following examples of how the concentration of wealth, of asset ownership, gives rise to principal-agent problems.  When a firm hires workers, it must monitor their level of effort because the workers, themselves, have no incentive to toil in a manner that maximizes the firm’s profits, as these accrue to the firm’s owners.  When a landowner leases acreage to a tenant farmer for a fixed sum, the farmer will work productively because the crops grown on the farm belong to the farmer,  but the farmer does not have an incentive to maintain the land’s long-term productivity, as this aspect of the land’s value is retained by the landowner.
            In these examples, temporary use of an asset, machinery or land, is separated from the right to residual income.  The workers receive no share of the firm’s profits, and the tenant farmer has no enduring claim on the value of the land she rents.  By contrast, in a more egalitarian economy, where workers own capital and farmers own land, the individual worker or farmer has an incentive both to put the capital or land to productive use and to maintain its longer term value, as these “owner-agents” have a legal right to both the current income their property generates as well as to its long-term capital value.  Widespread ownership thereby eliminates many principal-agent problems because there are no longer two parties with conflicting interests, one of whom must devote resources to monitoring the other.  Consequently there is an efficiency gain insofar as the resources devoted to monitoring can be redirected toward productive activities.[xix]
            The productivity-enhancing effects of a deconcentration of wealth flow from the premise that opacity - our ability to conceal information from others - has more adverse consequences in an economy where wealth is unevenly distributed than in an economy where property holdings are more equally apportioned.  If a society is divided into capitalists and workers, the former must devote considerable resources to the surveillance of the latter.  If the housing market is populated by landlords and tenants, the former will find it prudent to keep tabs on the conduct of the latter.  If there are lenders and borrowers, the former will want to know a great deal about the latter before granting a loan and accepting the risk of default.  But if wealth were spread more equally among citizens, then there would be more small businesses and fewer employees, more homeowners and fewer renters, more qualified borrowers and fewer credit-constrained households.  As a consequence of these changes, there would also be fewer principal-agent problems and fewer resources devoted to the monitoring of propertyless citizens.[xx]
            Critics of such egalitarian arrangements argue that if wealth were equally distributed, there would be less saving and less risk-taking than occurs when wealth is concentrated in fewer hands.[xxi]  It is, after all, the wealthy who can afford to save and to invest in projects that may be unsuccessful.  Moreover, the small scale production implied by the equal distribution of assets forecloses the exploitation of scale economies, which allow goods to be produced at lower cost.  Whatever their merits, these are not objections that would have moved Rousseau, who cared nothing about efficiency, productivity, or economic growth.  Quite the contrary, Rousseau would have been quite content with a property-owning democracy whose citizens were endowed with roughly equal property holdings and the independence it sustains.[xxii]  However, for those of us who count prosperity among the proper ends of political economy, it is important to include among the benefits of equality some mitigation of the principal-agent problems that emerge when society is divided between those who own valuable assets and those who do not, as well as the economic advantages that accrue to citizens who can conduct a good deal of their business on the basis of trust rather than contract.
            In addition to universal property ownership - “asset egalitarianism” - there is another contemporary approach to political economy that, I believe, Rousseau would have found appealing.  According to this view, the equalization of money incomes is less important than the preservation of a common life shared by all citizens, rich and poor alike.[xxiii]  Bearing in mind Rousseau’s distaste for hierarchical social relations, consider George Orwell’s description of revolutionary Spain in December 1936, where “waiters and shopwalkers looked you in the face and treated you as equal,” where “servile and even ceremonial forms of speech had temporarily disappeared,” where “tipping had been forbidden by law,” where “many of the normal motives of civilized life – snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc. – had simply ceased to exist .  .  .  One had breathed the air of equality.”[xxiv]
            If this is the kind of equality that is most essential to a republican state, then perhaps strict economic equality is not so important, for, even under Republican rule, Spain remained a country where wealth and income were by no means equally divided.  To create and maintain this kind of egalitarian atmosphere and the social solidarity that comes with it, it may not be necessary to level incomes completely, provided that those areas of life in which money confers power are circumscribed and the domains in which it does not hold sway are enlarged and protected.  The egalitarian’s proper objective, in this view, is not to redistribute income, but to create a non-economic sphere of life – a public, community sphere – in which money is powerless and the logic of the market economy is supplanted by the equality of citizenship.[xxv]
            Although Rousseau detested the drive for superior status, amour-propre, as well as the division of society into rich and poor, he was willing to tolerate a modicum of social stratification provided that it did not interfere with the common life of the republic.  For example, Rousseau urged the Poles to have “frequent open-air spectacles in which different ranks would be carefully distinguished, but in which, as in ancient times, all the people would take equal part.”[xxvi]  Rousseau was prepared to accept distinctions of rank, provided they were based upon service to the republic.  What he opposed were inequalities that destroyed the common life of the republic and the competition for relative position that leads us to “find our advantage in the misfortunes of our fellow-creatures,” an outlook fatal to the general will.[xxvii]
            Rousseau’s aim was to sustain the presence of the republic in the hearts of its citizens, while recognizing that citizens will always be tempted to advance their private interests.  There are many aspects of Rousseau’s model republic that embody this spirit, but none more than his proposed reestablishment of the corvée wherein citizens, instead of paying taxes, use “their labor, their arms and their hearts, rather than their purses, in the service of the fatherland.”[xxviii]  From the standpoint of efficiency, the corvée is, by no means, the best method for constructing public works.  Rather than compelling skilled craftsmen to build roads, it would be more efficient to allow them to ply their specialized trades, pay taxes on the income received therefrom, and then use the tax revenue to hire common laborers for road building.  Rousseau is prepared to grant all this, but for one premise - that taxes collected from citizens will flow without leakage to fund public works.  Instead, he insists that “the means of payment” - money - introduces “an infinity of measureless abuses and of evils greater and more unlimited than those which can result from this form of constraint [the corvée].”[xxix]  Why?  Because money “can be readily hidden from public inspection.”[xxx]
            If the corvée is to reinforce the egalitarian spirit of the republic, then “let the magistrate himself, though occupied with other cares, show that the rest are not beneath him, like those Roman consuls who, to set an example to their troops, were the first to put their hands to the construction of field works.”[xxxi]  By substituting, as far as possible, the labor of citizens for the levy of taxes, the republic will increase its “moral treasure,” for the payment of taxes “gives only the appearance of service, since the will cannot be bought.”[xxxii]  Paying taxes amounts to a kind of anonymous citizenship, for money is the primary instrument of opacity.  Once “it leaves the hand of the man who pays it over,” it “vanishes from sight.”  By contrast, working alongside fellow citizens to build public works creates a daily reminder of their common effort, a transparent manifestation of the general will.[xxxiii]
            Rousseau had no interest in enhancing the market’s power to coordinate the innumerable choices of strangers, nor even in softening the sharper edges of the market economy.  Nonetheless, one can find in his critique of civil society, in his complaint that “we never know with whom we have to deal,” a recognition of the importance of asymmetric information in the actual operation of a market economy, where the impersonal rule of the price system has been overthrown, supplanted by the strategic interaction of agents who often command vastly unequal bargaining power.  Rousseau’s model of republican political economy is not intended to enhance “the wealth of nations,” but to preserve the independence, solidarity, and virtue of their citizens.  The task of designing institutional arrangements to secure these ends must begin by “taking men as they are,” that is, human beings who are sometimes tempted by private advantage and whose motives are not always transparent.  Whether or not we share Rousseau’s disdain for material progress, we may at least admire his ingenuity in seeking to pool risks, to minimize free riding, and to preserve an extensive public sphere of equal rights and obligations.  And while few of us would be willing to exchange the material comforts generated by the division of labor for a humble self-sufficiency, we ought to recognize that the markets in which we trade are not nearly transparent enough to perform in the manner advertised by their most aggressive advocates.

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[i] See John Rawls, A Theory of Justice; Thomas Nagel, Equality and Partiality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991); and Peter Singer, Practical Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).
[ii] John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy [1848].
[iii] Rousseau, “Social Contract,” p. 93; and Rousseau, The Government of Poland, trans. Willmoore Kendall (Bobbs-Merrill: New York, 1972), p. 7.  In states, Rousseau complains, the public’s money “is easily diverted and concealed; what is intended for one purpose is utilized for another; those who handle money soon learn how to divert it – and what are all the officials assigned to keep watch on them, except so many more rascals whom one sends along to go shares with them?” The Government of Poland, p. 70.
[iv] See Nagel, Equality and Partiality, on liberalism's “moral division of labor.”
[v] It is worth emphasizing that while Rousseau sympathized with the poor, he did not refrain from attributing to them many of the same vices he attributed to the rich.  See, for example, “Discourse on Inequality,” p. 249.
[vi] See Rawls, A Theory of Justice; and Dworkin, “What is Equality? Part II: Equality of Resources.”

[vii] These problems will be compounded in small countries, and in local jurisdictions within larger states, because when these governments raise taxes to provide more generous benefits, they will attract immigrants in need of assistance, while some productive citizens will leave their jurisdictions in search of lower taxes.  See Paul E. Peterson, City Limits (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981).
[viii] Nagel, Equality and Partiality, p. 86; see also Thomas Nagel and Liam Murphy, The Myth of Ownership (New York: Oxford, 2002), p. 72.  For a critical view of liberal citizenship and its split personality, as well as an account of Rousseau's influence on Marx, see Lucio Colletti, From Rousseau to Marx (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972), pp. 143-94.
[ix] Rousseau, “Social Contract,” p. 3.
[x] Rousseau, “Discourse on Political Economy,” p. 306.

[xi] Rousseau, “Constitutional Project for Corsica,” p. 308.

[xii] Ibid., p. 297.

[xiii] Such an interpretation is consistent with Rousseau's enigmatic remark that while “the will of all” is no more than “a sum of particular wills,” if we “but take away from these same wills the pluses and minuses that cancel one another,” “the general will remains as the sum of the differences.”  See “Social Contract,” p. 26.
[xiv] Rousseau, “Essay on Political Economy,” pp. 307-308.

[xv] See Bowles and Gintis, “Efficient Redistribution: New Rules for Markets, State and Communities,” Recasting Egalitarianism, p. 6.
[xvi] According to Bowles and Gintis, “Efficient Redistribution,” p. 6, egalitarian communities “may be capable of supporting levels of cooperation and trust unavailable in more economically divided societies.”
[xvii] See my earlier discussion of Rousseau’s proposed public grain stocks.

[xviii] We noted, however, that health insurance is a special case.
[xix] Cf. John E. Roemer, A Future for Socialism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994).
[xx] Bowles and Gintis, “Efficient Redistribution,” cite several studies showing that, within the advanced economies, inequalities of wealth and income are negatively correlated with the rate of growth of productivity.
[xxi] See the discussion in Karla Hoff, “Market Failures and the Distribution of Wealth: A Perspective from

the Economics of Information,” Recasting Egalitarianism, pp. 332-60.

[xxii] Equality of wealth would also preclude one party from dictating terms to another.
[xxiii] According to one proponent of this view, “money liberalism,” which aims to preserve some measure of equality by suppressing the increasing disparities of income generated within contemporary global markets, is fighting a losing battle.  Attempts to significantly narrow the gap between rich and poor through tax-and-transfer policies, expansion of education and job training programs, increased unionization, trade protection, profit-sharing, and such like will not succeed for both economic and political reasons.  See Mickey Kaus, The End of Equality (New York: Basic Books, 1992).
[xxiv] Kaus, The End of Equality, pp. 13-14.
[xxv] See Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice (New York: Basic Books, 1983).
[xxvi] Rousseau, Government of Poland, pp. 14-15.  Rousseau seems to be much less concerned about inequality if people do not strive to improve their position, for it is “the continual shifting of rank and fortune among citizens [that] is fatal to morality and to the Republic,” because “neither those who rise nor those who fall are able to assume the rules of conduct” required by “this new condition, still less to discharge the duties it entails,” “Discourse on Inequality,” p. 313.
[xxvii] Rousseau, “Discourse on Inequality,” p. 274.

[xxviii] Rousseau, “Constitutional Project for Corsica,” p. 318.

[xxix] Ibid., p. 319.

[xxx] Ibid., p. 317.

[xxxi] Ibid., p. 320.
[xxxii] Ibid.

[xxxiii] Rousseau, “Government of Poland,” p. 74.

[1] See John Rawls, A Theory of Justice; Thomas Nagel, Equality and Partiality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991); and Peter Singer, Practical Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).
[1] John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy [1848].
[1] Rousseau, “Social Contract,” p. 93; and Rousseau, The Government of Poland, trans. Willmoore Kendall (Bobbs-Merrill: New York, 1972), p. 7.  In states, Rousseau complains, the public’s money “is easily diverted and concealed; what is intended for one purpose is utilized for another; those who handle money soon learn how to divert it – and what are all the officials assigned to keep watch on them, except so many more rascals whom one sends along to go shares with them?” The Government of Poland, p. 70.
[1] See Nagel, Equality and Partiality, on liberalism's “moral division of labor.”
[1] It is worth emphasizing that while Rousseau sympathized with the poor, he did not refrain from attributing to them many of the same vices he attributed to the rich.  See, for example, “Discourse on Inequality,” p. 249.
[1] See Rawls, A Theory of Justice; and Dworkin, “What is Equality? Part II: Equality of Resources.”

[1] These problems will be compounded in small countries, and in local jurisdictions within larger states, because when these governments raise taxes to provide more generous benefits, they will attract immigrants in need of assistance, while some productive citizens will leave their jurisdictions in search of lower taxes.  See Paul E. Peterson, City Limits (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981).
[1] Nagel, Equality and Partiality, p. 86; see also Thomas Nagel and Liam Murphy, The Myth of Ownership (New York: Oxford, 2002), p. 72.  For a critical view of liberal citizenship and its split personality, as well as an account of Rousseau's influence on Marx, see Lucio Colletti, From Rousseau to Marx (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972), pp. 143-94.
[1] Rousseau, “Social Contract,” p. 3.
[1] Rousseau, “Discourse on Political Economy,” p. 306.

[1] Rousseau, “Constitutional Project for Corsica,” p. 308.

[1] Ibid., p. 297.

[1] Such an interpretation is consistent with Rousseau's enigmatic remark that while “the will of all” is no more than “a sum of particular wills,” if we “but take away from these same wills the pluses and minuses that cancel one another,” “the general will remains as the sum of the differences.”  See “Social Contract,” p. 26.
[1] Rousseau, “Essay on Political Economy,” pp. 307-308.

[1] See Bowles and Gintis, “Efficient Redistribution: New Rules for Markets, State and Communities,” Recasting Egalitarianism, p. 6.
[1] According to Bowles and Gintis, “Efficient Redistribution,” p. 6, egalitarian communities “may be capable of supporting levels of cooperation and trust unavailable in more economically divided societies.”
[1] See my earlier discussion of Rousseau’s proposed public grain stocks.

[1] We noted, however, that health insurance is a special case.
[1] Cf. John E. Roemer, A Future for Socialism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994).
[1] Bowles and Gintis, “Efficient Redistribution,” cite several studies showing that, within the advanced economies, inequalities of wealth and income are negatively correlated with the rate of growth of productivity.
[1] See the discussion in Karla Hoff, “Market Failures and the Distribution of Wealth: A Perspective from

the Economics of Information,” Recasting Egalitarianism, pp. 332-60.

[1] Equality of wealth would also preclude one party from dictating terms to another.
[1] According to one proponent of this view, “money liberalism,” which aims to preserve some measure of equality by suppressing the increasing disparities of income generated within contemporary global markets, is fighting a losing battle.  Attempts to significantly narrow the gap between rich and poor through tax-and-transfer policies, expansion of education and job training programs, increased unionization, trade protection, profit-sharing, and such like will not succeed for both economic and political reasons.  See Mickey Kaus, The End of Equality (New York: Basic Books, 1992).
[1] Kaus, The End of Equality, pp. 13-14.
[1] See Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice (New York: Basic Books, 1983).
[1] Rousseau, Government of Poland, pp. 14-15.  Rousseau seems to be much less concerned about inequality if people do not strive to improve their position, for it is “the continual shifting of rank and fortune among citizens [that] is fatal to morality and to the Republic,” because “neither those who rise nor those who fall are able to assume the rules of conduct” required by “this new condition, still less to discharge the duties it entails,” “Discourse on Inequality,” p. 313.
[1] Rousseau, “Discourse on Inequality,” p. 274.

[1] Rousseau, “Constitutional Project for Corsica,” p. 318.

[1] Ibid., p. 319.

[1] Ibid., p. 317.

[1] Ibid., p. 320.
[1] Ibid.

[1] Rousseau, “Government of Poland,” p. 74.


[1] See John Rawls, A Theory of Justice; Thomas Nagel, Equality and Partiality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991); and Peter Singer, Practical Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).
[1] John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy [1848].
[1] Rousseau, “Social Contract,” p. 93; and Rousseau, The Government of Poland, trans. Willmoore Kendall (Bobbs-Merrill: New York, 1972), p. 7.  In states, Rousseau complains, the public’s money “is easily diverted and concealed; what is intended for one purpose is utilized for another; those who handle money soon learn how to divert it – and what are all the officials assigned to keep watch on them, except so many more rascals whom one sends along to go shares with them?” The Government of Poland, p. 70.
[1] See Nagel, Equality and Partiality, on liberalism's “moral division of labor.”
[1] It is worth emphasizing that while Rousseau sympathized with the poor, he did not refrain from attributing to them many of the same vices he attributed to the rich.  See, for example, “Discourse on Inequality,” p. 249.
[1] See Rawls, A Theory of Justice; and Dworkin, “What is Equality? Part II: Equality of Resources.”

[1] These problems will be compounded in small countries, and in local jurisdictions within larger states, because when these governments raise taxes to provide more generous benefits, they will attract immigrants in need of assistance, while some productive citizens will leave their jurisdictions in search of lower taxes.  See Paul E. Peterson, City Limits (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981).
[1] Nagel, Equality and Partiality, p. 86; see also Thomas Nagel and Liam Murphy, The Myth of Ownership (New York: Oxford, 2002), p. 72.  For a critical view of liberal citizenship and its split personality, as well as an account of Rousseau's influence on Marx, see Lucio Colletti, From Rousseau to Marx (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972), pp. 143-94.
[1] Rousseau, “Social Contract,” p. 3.
[1] Rousseau, “Discourse on Political Economy,” p. 306.

[1] Rousseau, “Constitutional Project for Corsica,” p. 308.

[1] Ibid., p. 297.

[1] Such an interpretation is consistent with Rousseau's enigmatic remark that while “the will of all” is no more than “a sum of particular wills,” if we “but take away from these same wills the pluses and minuses that cancel one another,” “the general will remains as the sum of the differences.”  See “Social Contract,” p. 26.
[1] Rousseau, “Essay on Political Economy,” pp. 307-308.

[1] See Bowles and Gintis, “Efficient Redistribution: New Rules for Markets, State and Communities,” Recasting Egalitarianism, p. 6.
[1] According to Bowles and Gintis, “Efficient Redistribution,” p. 6, egalitarian communities “may be capable of supporting levels of cooperation and trust unavailable in more economically divided societies.”
[1] See my earlier discussion of Rousseau’s proposed public grain stocks.

[1] We noted, however, that health insurance is a special case.
[1] Cf. John E. Roemer, A Future for Socialism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994).
[1] Bowles and Gintis, “Efficient Redistribution,” cite several studies showing that, within the advanced economies, inequalities of wealth and income are negatively correlated with the rate of growth of productivity.
[1] See the discussion in Karla Hoff, “Market Failures and the Distribution of Wealth: A Perspective from

the Economics of Information,” Recasting Egalitarianism, pp. 332-60.

[1] Equality of wealth would also preclude one party from dictating terms to another.
[1] According to one proponent of this view, “money liberalism,” which aims to preserve some measure of equality by suppressing the increasing disparities of income generated within contemporary global markets, is fighting a losing battle.  Attempts to significantly narrow the gap between rich and poor through tax-and-transfer policies, expansion of education and job training programs, increased unionization, trade protection, profit-sharing, and such like will not succeed for both economic and political reasons.  See Mickey Kaus, The End of Equality (New York: Basic Books, 1992).
[1] Kaus, The End of Equality, pp. 13-14.
[1] See Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice (New York: Basic Books, 1983).
[1] Rousseau, Government of Poland, pp. 14-15.  Rousseau seems to be much less concerned about inequality if people do not strive to improve their position, for it is “the continual shifting of rank and fortune among citizens [that] is fatal to morality and to the Republic,” because “neither those who rise nor those who fall are able to assume the rules of conduct” required by “this new condition, still less to discharge the duties it entails,” “Discourse on Inequality,” p. 313.
[1] Rousseau, “Discourse on Inequality,” p. 274.

[1] Rousseau, “Constitutional Project for Corsica,” p. 318.

[1] Ibid., p. 319.

[1] Ibid., p. 317.

[1] Ibid., p. 320.
[1] Ibid.

[1] Rousseau, “Government of Poland,” p. 74.

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